The Flourishing Midwife.
On Monday evening the 25th September 2017, we where lucky enough to have Maralyn Foureur from the University of Technology Sydney to share with us her presentation The Flourishing Midwife. During this presentation Maralyn visited some of the brilliant concepts from the gurus of well-being and positive psychology so we can learn how to become a “Flourisher”.
Maralyn’s definition of a Flourishing Midwife:
“A midwife who is creative, intuitive, expert practitioner operating at the peak of emotional intelligence.”
During this presentation we explored some ideas from positive psychology that will enhance our ability to flourish that is the gold standard for measuring our well-being.
Our main take home messages were:
# Look for the Positives,
# Develop a strategy for What ~ Went ~ Well, &
Look at the Positives
We need to look for things that are going well to counteract the strong negative bias of our brain. As Maralyn explained our brain does an amazing job of protecting us from danger. Especially when we changed from tree dwelling primates to walking on the ground with two legs we did so without sharp teeth or claws to protect us.
So, our brain began to change and grow until ultimately it became capable of scanning the environment moment to moment to protect us from danger such as a predator who may eat us. Our brains have become so good at doing this now we are hard wired to survive and our brain has a strong bias towards detecting the negative/s in our environment.
For example, like a doctor or another in the workplace who spoke sharply about something they wanted or a unit manager who didn’t smile at us. As it turns out our brain has become like VELCRO for the negative and like TEFLON for the positive. So when we doubt our abilities our brain then obliges with countess examples of why this is so.
Increasingly midwives are under incredible pressure in the work place resulting in feelings of weariness, being bullied, over whelm.
Develop a strategy for What ~ Went ~ Well
The Australian College of Midwives has some amazing resources on it in a section called the Kindness Campaign, which includes
- Mindfulness and meditation.
- Physical care.
- Goal setting.
- Resilience and work place strategies.
- Pay it forward.
- Digital detox.
- Breathing buddy cartoon- my favourite a cartoon that helps you to focus your breathing.
According to some studies, Kindness can affect Vegas nerve tone leading to better regulation of heart rate and a reduction in inflammation levels!
There are 5 building blocks to flourishing called the PERMA+ model. (Martin Seligman)
The P in PERMA+ stands for Positive Emotions. Emotions and behaviours are triggered by the way we perceive events around us. The simple act of reframing our thinking is to focus on the positive. This positive can create new synaptic connections in the brain.
Additionally in 2005 Barbara Fredrickson and Marcel Losado did a study that involved coding positive and negative words in business meetings. When there where more positive to negative words in business meetings to a ratio of at least 2.9+ to 1 there was a flourishing business. Below 2.9 positive messages to the one positive message the business was likely to be heading toward bankruptcy.
This correlates with J & J Gottman’s research on coded conversations between couples. They found that in intimate relationships a higher positive to negative ratio was required. 5+ positive to the 1 negative ration was needed in order for the relationship to flourish. When the ratio fell below that there was an astonishing 90% divorce rate within 6 months.
Of course you can take this positive communication thing too far and when the ratio goes above 13 positive to the one negative everybody’s “bullshit “ radar goes off and the whole thing back fires.
This information would be particularly valuable for our midwifery managers as the research shows us that emotions are contagious and we literally catch the emotions of our leaders.
To counter this Maralyn suggests we focus on our WWW (What – Went – Well). The strategy is to write down What Went Well for you. No matter how small. Also write WHY it went well and make it a regular habit.
The E in PERM stands for engagement. The message here is beware of any passive engagement. When we focus on doing things that we truly enjoy and care about, we can begin to engage completely with the present moment. (Csikszentmihalyi 1975)
Therefore it is control of consciousness that determines ones own happiness.
For this exercise you need to describe an episode when you where at your best. Then examine the qualities that enabled you to do that and name them.
According to Professor Chris Peterson and Prof Seligman in “Character Strengths and Virtues A Handbook and Classification”, there are 24 character strengths that we all possess and it is possible to measure which ones you are strongest so that you can then play to your strengths. Which is particularly helpful when times get tough and you are dealing with challenges in your life. This can be found at:
The R in PERMa stands for relationships. Everyone needs someone even if it is only one person with whom we can enhance our well-being and share things with.
Maralyn asked us to nominate one person that we felt we could call at 3am in the morning if we needed help. This person needs to be someone who will listen carefully using “Active Constructive Responding.” (Beware of the passive response).
The M in PERMA stands for meaning. We are at our best when we dedicate ourselves to contributing to something bigger than ourselves. This is very much the case in midwifery and if you don’t feel this the advise is GET OUT NOW!!!
The A in PERMA stands for Accomplishment. Everybody needs to win at sometime. We all need to be able to look back on our life at something and say to one-self, “I did it and I did it well! ” To build accomplishments we need SMART goals (Systematic, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound).
Therefore, through applying this knowledge into a strategy and activating yourself, you’ll become Permalicios and flourishing. So just briefly reflecting our points of interests to engage our-self and flourish with gratitude, the following are;
Positive emotions – Feeling good.
Engagement – Can be completely absorbed in your activities.
Relationships – Feel that we belong and are authentically connected to others.
Meaning – Have a meaningful existence.
Achievement – Have a sense of Accomplishment and Success.
WWW (What – Went – Well). The strategy is to write down What Went Well for you. No matter how small. Also write WHY it went well and make it a regular habit.
Plus so that you can share your journey, Flourishers, I am putting a challenge out there for you to join me via Facebook The Flourishers group in recording your WWW’s. Also the challenge is to continue this for 30 days and you will have wired your brain to increase your level of happiness. (Seligman 2005)